I hadn’t heard much about Florence, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was excited about it anyway. I knew it was home to the statue of David, and that was about it. However, I soon realised that it was so much more and became one of my favourite places.
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We arrived in Florence about midday after the train trip from Venice, which took about two hours. Our accommodation, Soggiorno Burchi, was nice and close to the train station, and we hiked our suitcases there on foot. When I walked into the building, I realised it was on the 4th floor. First, I saw the hordes of stairs and then a rickety old elevator. I looked at Brogan with fear in my eyes as she headed for the elevator. Would it make it to the top? Could we trust this ancient contraption? What if our weight made it collapse?
We got to the 4th floor and got our keys to our cute little room. I was pleased with our accommodation on this trip. Despite being super cheap, it was always well contained and clean with several power points for our phone chargers, hair straighteners etc. They always had heating for when it was freezing, which was most of the time.
After settling in, we got into our walking shoes and set off to explore Florence. This was the first time Brogan had been somewhere new on our trip, so we both got to experience it together, which was awesome.
Our first stop was somewhere for lunch, and we struck gold with a little café around the corner that could produce a quality coffee and sandwich.
We then walked through the markets and into the main square of Florence, where the Santa Maria del Fiore or Florence Cathedral was and the baptistery. These structures had the most amazing design we had seen, and we were captivated as we stood there and took it all in.
Right beside the Cathedral stands Giotto’s Campanile. This equally stunning free-standing bell tower is 414 stairs (85m high) to another breathtaking view over Florence.
The slender building is clad in red, white and green marble. It is considered one of the most beautiful in Italy, displaying a real sense of Gothic architecture. Admission here is 15€, but your ticket will get you into the Cathedral, baptistery and Duomo. The view was terrific, and the Duomo really added something special.
When we got back down to the bottom (exhausted, I might add), we walked through the square and admired all of the caricatures. I really wanted to get one done but didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it when a lovely man with a cheeky grin said he would give it to us for half price because we were “beautiful bellas”. At 10€, I couldn’t say no, and we spent the whole time laughing at what the picture might look like. The artist was so friendly and kept us laughing by asking us if we could date his single son, whom we soon learned was 17 years old. It was hysterical.
After that entertainment, we stopped by a lovely little patisserie and shared a delicious strawberry and cream dessert. Then took a stroll down to the Ponte Vecchio, or “old bridge” as it is known.
We managed to catch the most stunning sunset over one of the other bridges, which made for some great photos of the beauty of Florence.
Food & drink
By this time, we were feeling peckish, so we went for our first meal in Florence. You’ll find most restaurants in Italy are really similar, so it’s really more about the location and atmosphere. We found a place with a big window looking out to the street for our people-watching and a good selection of pizzas on the menu. I was craving a glass of cider or Moscato, but that was hard to source in Italy, so I opted for the sweetest red wine on the menu, which the waiter assured me was nice. It was not.
Adamant not to let it go to waste, Brogan and I drank it through clenched teeth. Haha. The pizzas were good, though! After that, we felt like heading out tonight, so we stopped by a bar that was relatively close to our hotel and had cider! It was pretty quiet, but I still managed to get through a few pints while we played scrabble and got harassed by a 40-year-old local man looking for a wife.
We soon escaped out of there and headed for an Irish bar with live music and felt a bit more at home. A middle-aged American dude came up to us and asked for a picture. Were we celebrities? We were baffled about what was going on, but it was all in good fun, and we had such a great night there dancing away before we stumbled home to our accommodation and crashed.
Tower of Pisa
The next morning, we woke up and walked to the train station for a day trip to Pisa. It took less than an hour to get there and was well worth it. Pisa is a cute little town on its own but is also obviously the home to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
When you jump off the train, it’s a short walk to the attraction. You will spot it from quite a distance, and it appears to be on a huge lean. The building is smaller than it looks in photos. Still, even so, it is impressive, and you can spend hours taking different pictures with it (touching the tip or even cuddling it). After you’ve got your money shot, you can climb up the tower or tour the beautiful town of Pisa, do some shopping and have some lunch.
We returned to Florence around midday and decided it would be great to climb another few hundred stairs up to the Duomo to get a different perspective of Florence.
For dinner we went to a restaurant known for its truffle oil, which I had in a risotto. It was so delicious that I ate the entire bowl, which left me unable to move for the rest of the night. We sat outside next to the heaters and blankets provided to us by the staff. So cosy!
On our way home back to the accommodation, we jumped on a carousel (that only had children on it). We laughed gleefully at each other before calling it a night.
On the final day
The next day was the last of our trip, and I felt sad about leaving. I had really enjoyed my time here, and the vibe was so infectious that I thought I could have stayed much longer. Everything was within walking distance; there were so many incredible places to eat and drink, and everyone enjoyed being there.
We started the day off with a trip to see the iconic statue of David, which is located in the Accademia Gallery. I had already been warned that he would be much “bigger” than expected, and the figure was indeed huge (over 5m tall)! The statue was created by Michelangelo and is meant to depict David before his battle with Goliath. The attention to detail and the incredible sculpted physique were awe-inspiring.
The entry price to the gallery is 23€, which is pretty high, but it is worth seeing David. You should also make the most of your ticket by checking out all the amazing other works by Michelangelo and other artists.
Then we headed up to the Piazza Michelangelo, a replica of David that sits on a hill overlooking Florence. Again, the views were great, and we got a panoramic look at the beautiful city.
Our last stop
Our last stop in Florence was at the Uffizi Gallery, and I soon realised why Florence was home to hundreds of art students worldwide. This place is the hub of the most outstanding art history and the Uffizi Gallery would have to be one of the best art museums you would ever visit. It is located in central Florence and is home to incredible sculptures and artwork by famous artists such as Leonardo De Vinci, Michelangelo, Giotto and Botticelli. Be prepared to be amazed, confused and possibly humoured at some of the wonderful and wacky things you will encounter.
Before our train trip to Rome, we had some spare time, so we stopped at a little waffle/gelato bar and had waffle sandwiches. Then, we sat on the couch and ate them as we went through our photos.
We loved Florence, and I didn’t want to say goodbye. I will definitely put Florence on my list of places to return to, but it was time to head to my most anticipated place in Europe and the main reason for my trip: Rome!!